Female Soldiers To Move Into Combat-Related Roles, Army Says

female soldiers combat roles ArmyBy Kristin M. Hall

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) -- Female soldiers this week are moving into new jobs in once all-male units as the Army breaks down formal barriers in recognition of what has already happened in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The policy change announced earlier this year is being tested at nine brigades, including one at Fort Campbell, before going Army-wide. It opens thousands of jobs to female soldiers by loosening restrictions meant to keep them away from the battlefield. Experience on the ground in the past decade showed women were fighting and dying alongside male soldiers anyway. Col. Val Keaveny Jr., commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team that is among units piloting the change, told The Associated Press that for the last decade it has been common to have women temporarily attached to the combat units and serve alongside them.

"Women have served in our Army since the Revolutionary War and they have done phenomenal work and continue to do so today," he said. "There is great talent and now we can have it in the headquarters of infantry, armor and cavalry."

Under the new policy, female officers and non-commissioned officers will be assigned to combat units below the brigade level. The change will open up about 14,000 new jobs for women in the military, but there are still more than 250,000 jobs that remain closed to women.

The new jobs within combat battalions are in personnel, intelligence, logistics, signal corps, medical and chaplaincy. The Army is also opening jobs that were once entirely closed to women, such as mechanics for tanks and artillery and rocket launcher crew members.

The 4th Brigade draws its lineage from the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, whose World War II heroics led to books and a TV miniseries called the "Band of Brothers." But these days, Keaveny said there are more than 350 women already serving in the brigade and they will be opening 36 new jobs to women in the battalions.

"For the last 10 years, we have been fighting alongside women. In my experience I have seen that the Band of Brothers quickly integrate their sisters and they are a family," he said.

Capt. Elizabeth Evans, a 44-year-old mother of five, is one of the first women assigned to the combat battalions. She will be serving as a battalion S1, whose job is to oversee personnel issues within the battalion, including awards, casualties, human resources and other administrative responsibilities. She said there is a lot of pride associated with serving in an infantry unit.

"I think there's a rich history in the 101st and especially the 4th Brigade Combat Team," she said. "To me that means something. It means something to be a part of not necessarily history, but to be a part of a once all-male battalion."

Evans, who has deployed to Afghanistan, noted that women have been serving in dangerous jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan for 10 years.

"With the fluidity of the battlefield and how there are no front lines, it just makes more sense to me to allow women to come into those roles, those noncombat staff roles," she said.

Keaveny said these changes will have minimum impact on where women will be located while deployed. Battalion headquarters are generally located at bases where women were already stationed and the Army has been using female engagement teams to reach out to civilians in remote areas.

"Quite honestly we don't see there's going to be any friction," he said.

Kayla Williams, author of "Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army," served with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team under the 101st Airborne Division during the initial invasion into Iraq as an enlisted soldier in military intelligence.

Early in the war, she wasn't even issued plates for her ballistic vest "because females can't serve in combat," she said. She said once she was temporarily attached to an infantry battalion at Fort Campbell that had no female latrines.

As an Arabic translator, she was attached to infantry units rather than assigned, but doing the same things as her male infantry counterparts, including going on foot patrols and living in remote combat outposts.

"Women have been serving in very forward deployed roles, and women have been serving side-by-side with combat arms personnel, just not in a formalized assigned method," said Williams, who is a fellow at the Truman National Security Project.

She said these incremental changes could improve the professional development of both men and women in the military, but acknowledged that the military still has a long way to go to leveling the field for women.

"It is my personal opinion that the institutionalization of women as not being able to serve in combat arms has a way of subtly allowing sexism within the military," she said.

Evans said she hopes the expanded roles will encourage more women to consider a career in the Army.

"I think for females in general, it's bringing us new avenues for accomplishments, for professional growth. In my personal belief, we are a part of supporting our infantryman," she said.

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If you study history, women have been feared warriors in many cultures. It's the christian taliban that historicaly have subjugated women to a subservant role ( in our country ) and they continue in those efforts to date.

May 17 2012 at 7:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Lyudmila Pavlichenko...309 confirmed kills (500 unconfirmed), WW2 Russian Front.

May 17 2012 at 5:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

not a good idea.... women will be wounded and as men try to "save her" they will be popped by a sniper, also men have basic protective instincts to protect women in turn that will cost many a soldier live's

May 17 2012 at 4:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

these women dont want to fight in the war they just want to date the male troops. in the real war the enamy dont know man from women all they know is kill anything moving. there not gonna say let her go she just a lady. wake up ladys youll get blown away like everyone else.

May 17 2012 at 4:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have not read one remark about the following: There have always been some women who could behave as men from time eternity. I do not know one of my friends that could in any way serve in the armed forces. I, myself, am a crack shot, having been taught to hunt as a child with my father. As for anything else, I am a pathetic entry to anything combative. Most women could NOT serve in combat. I am married to a wonderful husband who has always protected me. I have also taken care of him when he is hurt or ill. He traveled as an engineer all of the time, I kept the home fires burning, food on the table for my two wonderful kids (who are the greatest grown kids in the world) cleaned the house, chauffered them everywhere; helped with homework, laundry and etc. When they were older, I taught school for twenty-three years - now that is real war, and I loved it. lol Most of us are feminine; it is those who wish for all women to be men who have serious gender problems.

May 17 2012 at 1:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Insane societies send women into combat to get killed, maimed or raped. Sane societies protect and defend women.

May 16 2012 at 11:39 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Richard C.

We'll have to see where this goes, an how far! I feel that there are many jobs (MOS's) for female soldier's, but when they are in heavy fire-fights, I don't want to hear this 'PSM', I have cramps (or Headaches), and can't do that 'sarge', BS! Or, can't do this because I'm going to have a baby, and have to nurse it. Once this starts, your a Soldier, no If, And's, or But's! The soldier fighting beside you, is the guy that may save your life in combat. And, like some other non-traditional employment, where 'women's rights' groups fought for them to take these type of jobs, but only did it to make a point. That BS has to stop. If you can't carry your load, then get rid of this new approach, for some high ranking soldier, wanting to prove something. So, mother's, get ready for the knock at your door in the middle of the night, with the, the 'secretary of the 'service', regrettably wishes to inform you that your daughter was killed in enemy action'! And, the men are going to have to get acclimated, that these women have to do their own job, and they don't have time help them carry their weight, by saying, let me help you with that, philosophy! E.G. of 'holding the door open for women, and all those right's they obtained, to do traditional, men's jobs, are now gone! Ladies, there No more time for sitting on your butts, and watching the'Soap's', lets see how long this lasts!

May 16 2012 at 10:00 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Richard C.'s comment

Your comment was pretty sexist. Don't bother arguing with me if you disagree with my statement. Women who join the military are just a dedicated as any man, if not more so. The weak ones are weeded out in training.

May 16 2012 at 11:20 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

Will our ladies have to pass same physical tests as the men or will they change the requirements, like they did with fireman.

May 16 2012 at 9:41 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 16 2012 at 9:17 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Not to offend woman. Buuut, I firmly believe that when woman won the liberation thing the children in this country suffered for it. And now we all suffer from it. When I grew up the mother was the backbone in the family who fed us and kept us in-line or disciplined us when we got out of line. Taught us values and morality. I respected my mother and therefore I respect woman. Over the last 35 years or so ,I've watched that fade away. Now your lucky to find kids with any manners or sense of responsibility. I would like to see It go back to that. This country was a better place back then.

May 16 2012 at 9:00 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

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